Articles by Huw David Jones
When it was established in 1978, Ffotogallery was one of the first galleries in the UK to specialize in the presentation and promotion of photographic art. Its founding reflected the new cultural status of photography, as critics began to rethink the old elitist idea that art was something limited to painting and sculpture. At a time of massive social transformation in Wales following the demise of industries like coal and slate, this gave photographers a new platform to showcase work that documented the changing face of the nation. Three decades on, Ffotogallery is staging a two part exhibition that looks back on 30 years of commissioned work made in and about Wales.
Part One, I Hate Green, takes its name from a piece of graffiti captured by Peter Fraser as part of The Valley’s Project – a unique undertaking, begun in 1984, to record the post-industrial evolution of the South Wales Valleys. It is a title that reminds us how observers historically viewed this region through the prism of black-and-white photography, an aesthetic that often served to reinforce the sense of grimness and gloom associated with industrial society. Fraser’s colour series, which anticipates the recent work of Anthony Stokes, presents of a more original view of the Valleys, with its poetic and often humorous take on the everyday detritus of industry.
Part Two, Fantasy and Denial, features work by the Irish artist Willie Doherty depicting the facades of the Welsh Office and the National Museum of Wales. Doherty is best known for his work dealing with the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and in particular the surveillance activities of the British state. The current exhibition evokes similar themes by exploring the complex relationship between institutions, communities and individuals in a Welsh context.
Together these two shows provide a fascinating overview of the photographic imaging of Wales over the past 30 years. They further underline the dynamic role played by photography in contemporary Welsh art and culture.
I Hate Green/Fantasy and Denial are at the Ffotogallery, Turner House, Penarth, from Sat 14 Jun till Sun 31 Aug.
This post was originally published by Buzz magazine.